The Last Art College
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1968-1978
480 pp., 9 x 12 in, 191 color illus., 410 b&w illus.
- Published: February 24, 2012
The long-awaited history of the art college that became an unlikely epicenter of the art world in the 1960s and 1970s.
How did a small art college in Nova Scotia become the epicenter of art education—and to a large extent of the postmimimalist and conceptual art world itself—in the 1960s and 1970s? Like the unorthodox experiments and rich human resources that made Black Mountain College an improbable center of art a generation earlier, the activities and artists at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (aka NSCAD) in the 1970s redefined the means and methods of art education and the shape of art far beyond Halifax.
A partial list of visiting artists and faculty members at NSCAD would include Joseph Beuys, Sol LeWitt, Gerhard Richter, Dan Graham, Mel Bochner, Lucy Lippard, John Baldessari, Hans Haacke, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Frank, Jenny Holzer, Robert Morris, Eric Fischl, and Dara Birnbaum. Kasper Koenig and Benjamin Buchloh ran the NSCAD Press, publishing books by Hollis Frampton, Lawrence Weiner, Donald Judd, Daniel Buren, Michael Asher, Martha Rosler, and Michael Snow, among others. The Lithography Workshop produced early works by many of today's masters, including John Baldessari, Vito Acconci, and Claes Oldenburg. With The Last Art College, Garry Kennedy, the college's visionary president at the time, gives us the long-awaited documentary history of NSCAD during a formative era.
From gallery openings to dance performances to visiting lectures to exhibitions to classroom projects, the book gives a rich historical and visual account of the school's activities, supplemented by details of specific events, reminiscences by faculty and students, accounts of artists' talks, and notes on memorable controversies.
The Last Art College is an astonishing document. Without retreating into obscure theories of pedagogy, it demonstrates how a small college in a remote location in Canada rewrote the textbook on how to teach contemporary art in a college setting. Every art school—and every art student—in North America owes a debt to Garry Neill Kennedy for brilliantly turning the academic norms upside down. Page by page, we see the process by which the great minds and talents of a generation—Lucy Lippard, Joseph Beuys, Daniel Buren, Lawrence Weiner, and many more—were brought into the center of the educational experience. Sadly, forty years later, there is nothing like it.
AA Bronson, artist
As so often in the history of avant-garde culture, lack (of opportunity to show and tell), need (for exchange, employment, and economic reproduction), and necessity (to access new artistic practices and representations) generated the by now mythical Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. In a remote region previously explored only by the likes of Arthur Cravan and Marsden Hartley, a core and visiting faculty of Canadians, Americans, Englishmen, and Europeans made NSCAD the laboratory of some of the most radical international art experiments of the sixties and seventies. Now NSCAD can be seen not only as the last art college, but as a first or formative chapter of many other histories. For example, the books, documents, and pamphlets that were produced at NSCAD Press, first under Kasper König's editorship and then my own, found, for a 'rather brief moment in time,' common causes, collective grounds, and public support. Now they appear—with the condensation of hindsight—as part of the saga of artistic affluence that constitutes the legend and legacy of NSCAD.
Benjamin Buchloh, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Modern Art at Harvard University and author of Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry
Many people have been waiting for this wonderful, witty, surprising, and inspiring history of the 'Last Art College' put together by its former president, the conceptual artist Garry Kennedy. The intense activity of NSCAD from 1968 to 1978, the heyday of conceptual art, is here recounted through original writings of the time by people like Benjamin Buchloh, Charlotte Townsend, Peggy Gale, and David MacWilliam, documenting an extraordinary international space of freedom and intelligence. The book is part memory, part history, and will be a must-read for art historians and artists who want to understand a period when fearless experimentation was not only humorous but also connected to the transformation of everyday life. This adventure, beautifully laid out in the book, should be a model for a rethinking of our art schools after the 'Last Art College' and should ensure, as Garry Kennedy says, paraphrasing a well-known sentence used at NSCAD by John Baldessari, that 'we will not make any more boring art colleges.' The book has already succeeded in doing this.
Serge Guilbaut, Professor of Art History and Theory, University of British Columbia
In the end, The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1968-1978 becomes Kennedy's greatest work to date as a conceptual artist. He has found a way to make the college's vision and material production stand the test of time.
The Architect's Newspaper